An Ethiopian Feast!

I love Ethiopian food, but there’s pretty much no chance whatsoever of getting it within an hour-and-a-half drive of our current location. Ethiopian is on the time-consuming side to cook because much of it kind of stews for a while, and also because it’s usually served as several dishes (at least it is the way we’ve eaten it in the past). So, I cook it infrequently. Maybe twice a year, we put our own Ethiopian Feast together and invite friends to share it with us.

While I love this cuisine anytime, I find it especially appropriate for winter. Many dishes use winter-friendly foods like potatoes, carrots, hardy greens, onions (which form the backbone of most dishes), and dried legumes. I kept this in mind when selecting dishes for our latest feast.

I started off by grinding fresh spices for the berbere. I doubled the recipe (below), and saved the extra dry spice mix in a jar. To turn it into a sauce for the recipes that called for it, I added canola oil (half cup) and red wine (1/4 cup) .

Berbere Spice Mix

1 tsp. fenugreek
1 ttsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbs. dark chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tbs cayenne pepper
2 tbs paprika
1 tsp black pepper

On low heat, combine spices in small sautee pan and roast for 7-12 minutes, stirring constantly, until spices are aromatic and change color slightly. NOTE: Do not stick your head over the pan, and turn on a fan or open a window.

I had my spice mix, and it was time to move on to the cooking. First up was Doro Wat.

I use this recipe, but I don’t marinade the chicken. Instead, I do everything as directed, then throw it in the slow cooker for several hours. Why? Because I only have so much room on my stove and in my refrigerator, and this frees things up so I can do several other dishes. I also always make a double batch, since it tends to be one of the most popular dishes.

While things were simmering for the doro wat, I set the onions cooking for the gomen:

This is a process. It takes me about an hour-and-a-half to get them where I think they’re perfect, but it’s worth the wait. Gomen is essentially collard greens, but even people who don’t like collard greens often like these:

I use the recipe as a base, but add s0me cream, which makes it kind of a cross between gomen and yegomen kitfo, and also spice it with about a 1/2 tsp. each of allspice, tumeric, paprika, and ginger.

Once the doro wat was done and the gomen underway, I started the shro wat (there’s no real variation to that recipe). I love the peanut butter and tomato sauce combination present in much African cooking, and here it’s paired with butternut squash (pumpkin works just as well) and other vegetables. This and the gomen are very easy to make vegan or vegetarian. Once done it, too, goes into a crockpot to hold until dinner.

Like many types of stews, much Ethiopian stew gets better as it sits, and this is true for pretty much all the dishes I made today.  This dish, called aleecha, is full of carrots, potatoes, and cabbage. The linked recipe is good, but I double the tumeric and add a tablespoon or so of berbere, as I tend to like more flavor:

Another favorite of mine is atar allecha, a warm, spicy pea dish.

Peas just don’t look good on film; or, at the very least, they never look good on my digital camera regardless of my settings. They’re green, mushy, and kind of uniform, which makes for a fairly boring picture. Fortunately, the taste isn’t boring.

The last dish for dinner was zigni, a very spicy meat dish. Unfortunately, none of my photos turned out; but, trust me, it was yummy. It’s also very, very spicy, so I tend to mix it with the gomen or aleecha before I eat it.

Ethiopian isn’t eaten with utensils, it’s eaten with a stretchy bread called injera. Thadd makes this using this quick recipe The traditional recipe takes much longer, and is made with teff, which we don’t have reasonable access to; but, this is a really good version, too.

To serve, each person gets a plate, napkin, and several pieces of injera. In the center of the table, we place two serving trays lined with injera, with several scoops-full of each dish around each tray and a few spoons. People move a bit of whatever dishes they like to their own plate, rip off a bit of injera, an then use the bread to pick up and eat the food. It’s a lot fun. Generally, we’d serve a mock-tej (we can’t get a real one at anyplace nearby), but we didn’t do that this time, instead opting for water.

Why, you ask, are there no photos of everything all served up on cool platters? Well, I’ve promised Thadd I would not blog all of our dinners, or be rude to guests and make them wait while I snapped photos of everything. What I did do, however, is put a quick plate together for my lunch:

(You can click over to flickr and hover over the photo to see what is what.)

There’s a pile of leftovers, which is pretty darn exciting for me. I could eat this stuff for weeks.


8 responses to “An Ethiopian Feast!

  • Stacie

    A friend of mine has adopted three children from Ethiopia. She has tried, with varying amounts of success, to cook Ethiopian for her family. Do you know of any free online sites that have easy-to-make Ethiopian recipes? I stress that they must be easy to make, because she has 8 children!

    My husband has spent time in the Middle East, and they ate Naan bread (locally called “naani”.) After a few attempts, I have made an acceptable naan bread that my family enjoys. Where my husband stayed, they also tore off bits of naani to use as eating utensils.

  • Stacie

    Wow, that recipe looks amazing! I’m forwarding it to my friend and bookmarking it for myself. (I will probably slice the egg first, though. I think it’d be easier to eat that way.)

    • shwankie

      Actually, now that you mention it, I slice the egg in both the crock pot recipe, and in the recipe I did for the feast, but I’ve made them so often I forgot to add that as a modification. I think it works better because it’s thickens the sauce quite a bit, but your point about making it easier to eat is definitely correct. I’d never thought of that point before.

  • idiosyncratic eye

    I’ve only eaten Ethiopian once, in OKC of all places, but I fell in love. Maybe this post will encourage me to recreate some of the dishes, thank you. 🙂

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